The savings mobilisation and innovative lending efforts (SMILE) project in West Nile

Focus Groups: Refugees

Tools of Impact: Catalytic Grant, Technical Assistance

Achievements: 385 youth in refugee settlements have got acces to productive credit through this intervention, 71% who are female. 17 savings groups in the project area have opened up accounts with upstream partner Centenary Bank, and 16 groups have been digitised and are receiving credit.

Synopsis: The FI4R project, co-funded by Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Uganda and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa – in collaboration with BFA Global – includes a ground-breaking study that will track the financial lives of refugees in Uganda for 12 months. This study is informing the development of financial products and services offered to refugees and their host communities by three implementing partners – Rural Finance Initiative, VisionFund Uganda and Equity Bank Uganda Ltd. – as well as other market actors. The implementing partners have been provided with funding and technical assistance to launch innovative projects which will create efficiency in humanitarian payments and provide relevant formal financial services to refugee settlements in the West Nile region and Isingiro District. These market-led interventions are expected to enable better integration, strengthen the resilience of households by stimulating economic activity and increase take-home incomes. With the support of FSDU and FSDA, RUFI is providing refugees with both credit and savings products. The savings product is tapping into exiting VSLAs using Ledger Links, an app developed by Grameen Foundation. Ledger Links mirrors and digitises the rituals typical to VSLAs, including record keeping, and fits seamlessly into their existing processes. It enables them to save excess money securely with an FSP and build their credit scores to access loans based on accurate profiling data. The limited capital available and insecurity of the cash-based systems of most VSLAs limits the impact their credit services can have on the financial lives of members. RUFI will also provide loans to these VSLAs and youth-led enterprises operating in the settlements. Project partners are supporting the development of a go-to-market strategy for RUFI as well as savings mobilisation and lending activities.

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